Sopa de Pata by William Palomo

broth the color of thin blood   the red-brown
of a shot eye   its insomniac boil   fat with bone
yuca & tripa 

bone                 the cow’s foot    a fleshless knuckle    tender ache
                          in your jaw   grisly glacier to suckle   dirty as a moon
                          floating dark in your bowl

yuca                  ruthless root   skin scarred cracked as Gordon’s  
                          immortal back   root so rugged you gotta hack it apart
                          with a butcher’s knife   flesh made soft & starchy
                          only in the cauldron’s tempest-temperature   landing
                          in your belly heavy as a lie   the most filling part  
                          of the meal   only a few bites will kill any hunger  

tripa                   the gut  where every troubled truth is felt  ripe
                           with shit   scoured scrubbed & thrice boiled soft  
                           three pots of water abandoned to clean the belly sponge
                           stringy meat   worm-pale   small as cut tongues  

all cooked with platanos zanahoria y ayote
served at noon on summer days where the flies drowned
landing on our foreheads   the meal we would grimace
at as children   ungrateful for the sacrifices of our parents 

sopa de pata

                          you raw ritual   you taught me
                          how to lick clean  every bowl & bowel
                          how to swallow  even the sour
                          the bitter aftertaste  of every lover      

sopa de pata

                          you choked me once
                          as a child   a soft rope
                          of tripe trapped   in my throat
                          i gagged & soundlessly called
                          out for Mama but she couldn’t hear me
                          until i clapped my hands
                          on the table  at once she lifted me
                          from the chair & pounded
                          my back with her palm
                          until i coughed out a mouthful
                          of your white gut   onto the kitchen floor
                          wet & grim as a slug

i gasped for breath   wiping tears from my eyes
              & asked Mama if i could be excused
she looked me straight in the eye & said no
              we don’t waste food

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Contributor Notes

Willy Palomo is the son of two undocumented immigrants from El Salvador. His poems and book reviews can be found in the pages of Vinyl, Waxwing, Muzzle, The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States, or